Patterns of metaphor use in reconciliation talk

Cameron, Lynne J. (2007). Patterns of metaphor use in reconciliation talk. Discourse and Society, 18(2) pp. 197–222.



In a violent world, reconciliation between perpetrators and victims offers an alternative to revenge or retaliation. In such discourse, participants must make extended efforts to explain themselves to, and to understand, the Other. This article investigates emergent patterns of metaphor in reconciliation talk between an IRA bomber and victim, recorded over two and a half years.
The analysis starts from identification of linguistic metaphors and works recursively between levels of discourse, revealing how micro-level negotiation of metaphors contributes to emergent macro-level metaphor systems. Metaphors frame the reconciliation process as A JOURNEY, as CONNECTION, as CHANGING A DISTORTED IMAGE and as LISTENING TO THE OTHER’S STORY. The metaphors vary in
their lexicogrammatical patterns and in the degree to which they are extended and developed. Contrasting metaphors are shown to be particularly valuable, as is ‘symbolic literalization’ in which the use of words across metaphor, metonymy and the literal creates useful indeterminacy.

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